wide range of changes can happen in the body to different degrees as we
age. These changes are not necessarily indicative of an underlying
disease but they can be distressing to the individual. Even though the
aging process cannot be stopped, being aware of these changes and
adopting a healthy lifestyle can reduce their impact on overall health.
- Skin: With
aging, skin becomes less flexible, thinner, and more fragile. Easy
bruising is noticeable, and wrinkles, age spots, and skin tags may
become more apparent. Skin can also become more dry and itchy as a
result of less natural skin oil production.
- Bones, joints, and muscles: Bones
typically lose density and shrink in size making them more susceptible
to fractures. Muscles shrink in mass and become weaker. Joints can
suffer from normal wear and tear; joints become painful, inflamed, and
- Mobility and balance: A
person’s mobility and balance can be affected by various age related
changes. Bone, joint, and muscle problems listed above in conjunction
with changes in the nervous system are the major contributors to balance
problems. Falls may occur resulting in further damage with bruises and
- Body shape: As
a result of bony changes of aging, body stature can become shorter and
curvature of the back vertebrae may be altered. Increased muscle loss
and reduced fat metabolism can also occur. Fat can redistribute to the
abdominal area and buttock areas. Maintaining an ideal body weight
becomes more difficult.
- Face: Aging
changes also take place in the face. Other than wrinkles and age spots,
the overall facial contour can change. Overall loss of volume from
facial bone and fat can result in less tightness of the facial skin and
sagging. The face becomes droopier and bottom heavy.
- Teeth and gums: Teeth
can become more, weak, brittle, and dry. Salivary glands produce less
saliva; Gums can also recede from the teeth. These changes may result in
dry mouth, tooth decay, infections, bad breath, tooth loss, and gum
- Hair and nail: Hair
can become thinner and weaker as a person ages. Dry hair may lead to
itching and discomfort. Nails may become brittle and unshapely. Nails
can also get dry and form vertical ridges. Toe nail thickening (ram’s
horn shape) is common. Nail fungal infections may occur frequently.
- Hormones and endocrine glands: Hormonal
changes are seen commonly in the elderly. Most common is the hormonal
control of blood sugar and carbohydrate metabolism leading to diabetes.
Thyroid dysfunction and problems with fat and cholesterol metabolism are
also commonly encountered. Calcium and vitamin D metabolism may also
- Memory: Problems
with memory are common in seniors. However, it is important to realize
that minor memory problems so not constitute dementia or Alzheimer’s
disease. Simple lapses of memory such as not remembering where you left
your car keys or whether you locked the door are a normal part of aging.
- Immunity: The
body’s immune system can get weaker with age. Blood cells that fight
infections (white blood cells) become less effective leading to more
- Hearing: Changes
in nerves pf hearing and ear structures can dim hearing and cause
age-related hearing loss. Higher frequencies become harder to hear.
- Vision: Eyes
can become drier and the lens can lose its accuracy as we age. Vision
can be affected by these changes and can become blurry and out of focus.
Glasses or contact lenses can help correct these problems.
- Taste and smell: Sense of smell and less commonly, sense of taste may fade leading to poor appetite and weight loss.
- Bowel and bladder: Bowel
and bladder control can cause problems with incontinence. Additionally,
bowel and bladder habit can change. Constipation is common in older
adults, as are urinary frequency and difficulty initiating urine.
- Sleep: Sleep
patterns can significantly change with age. Duration of sleep, quality
of sleep, and frequent night time awakening are commonly seen in
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